There’s a brand new propellant on the market that claims to be equivalent to Hodgdon’s Varget, maybe better… READ MORE
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by Ken Johnson, Shooters World
Beat Varget? It couldn’t be done. After all, THAT powder has got just about the most fanatical following in the industry.
It was a tall order that we placed on our Shooters World designers and quality assurance folks. Much discussion. Much head nodding, and head shaking, finger waving, white-board writing, graphs, arrows, derivatives and integrals, shoulder shrugging…and time. Much, much time. Trial after trial. Improvement after improvement. That was back in 2014 that we made the first appeal for this powder, this technology, and this burn speed.
We had tasked our manufacturer with the creation of a propellant that would out-perform Varget®. We wanted the same burn speed. We wanted the same density. We wanted easier and more consistent volumetric charging. But most importantly, we wanted superior ignition, and superior temperature insensitivity. We wanted it more accurate.
Since receiving the early samples of this propellant, and our first production lot, I have made it my A-number-one objective to proof this propellant. If my personal name was to be associated with it, it had to be very, very right.
After what seemed like an eternity, made even longer by my eagerness to get my hands on this new propellant, I have run it through many cartridges. I have charged with it through numerous meters. I have run it at temperatures ranging from -65F to +165F. I have shot it for accuracy. Repeatedly, I have compared it directly to Varget®.
As I reviewed the published charge weights, velocities, and pressures of Precision and compared them to Varget®, there’s very similar performance. When I was directly comparing charge-for-charge, and load-length-to-load length, I found in numerous cartridges and bullet combinations that my ballistic results were within 25 fps of the published Varget® data. Same charge weight, similar pressure. Same charge weight, similar loading density.
That said, keep in mind that I’m an accuracy nut, and I’m not exactly one to follow the herd. I’m an Olympic shooter, and an Internal Ballistic Engineer. I don’t arbitrarily assign a cartridge overall length. If the goal is accuracy, I purposefully set each and every one.
And as you may know, cartridge overall length (COAL) can and does affect the pressure/charge weight/velocity relationship. It also affects accuracy, efficiency, and barrel life. So, I take it seriously.
One of the advantages of handloading is being able to define your own load length. Knowing this, we further assist the handloader by publishing resultant pressures, velocities, and charge weights, when a specific projectile is positioned very close to the optimal location. Why? Because it’s all about hitting the target. FIRST you’ve got to hit the target, only then you should concern yourself with velocity.
Our load lengths are purposeful. And because of that, as well the inherent (small, but significant) variations in testing results from barrel-to-barrel, our data is not an exact match to that data published by other companies. But rest assured, if you’ve got a SAAMI or NATO chamber, know that Shooters World reloading data is optimized for your chamber and/or your system. If you’ve got a European CIP chamber, know that we also support those chambers and cartridges with European load data too!
Some folks believe that “Temperature Sensitivity” is something that you sprinkle into propellant as it’s being made, like an ingredient. I’m here to tell you, there ain’t no “throw a couple scoops of Insensitivity-Pixie-Dust into the powder vat,” any more than there’s laces for your trigger shoe. Nope. Temperature insensitivity has everything to do with how the propellant burns before the system hits max pressure. That’s it. That’s the secret. And there’s no “secret sauce” that is going to change that fundamental principle.
In validating Precision against Varget®, we used this fundamental principle in our testing. We took both Varget® and Precision out of their intended “happy place” and forced them to perform in numerous environments where they should fail. These methodologies will remain proprietary to Shooters World. But please understand that our boastful claims of superior temperature insensitivity and velocity standard deviation are founded on real-world results in overly demanding environments.
And it’s this combination of know-how, propellant technology, and shooter-to-shooter empathy that makes us different. We shoot. And we know shooting. All the load building work we do is tedious, but through virtuous and diligent work, we hope you find our products, services, and data the best.
About the author: Ken Johnson works with Shooters World in the capacity of Ballistics Managing Partner, Laboratory Manager, and Ballistician. In addition, Ken has had a long and distinguished career as a championship shooter both with the USAMU and USA Olympic Team, having won numerous gold, silver, and bronze medals in the Pan American Games, World Championship, and other international events, as well as national championships at Camp Perry.